I recently had the pleasure to read one the most amazing and heart-wrenching memoirs I’ve ever read. The author, Kathryn Brettell, gracefully agreed to an interview. If you haven’t read The Olive Picker yet, I highly recommend it. The book already has 38 *FIVE star reviews from raving fans. This Lady went through pure hell and somehow managed not only to survive, but to triumph over overwhelming circumstances.
The Olive Picker starts out with a gripping opening chapter. Did you plan it that way, or did you do some shuffling once the book was finished?
Both. I wrote an outline before I got started and once all the pieces on the outline were written, I shuffled the chapters around until I was happy with it.
How long did writing the book take, from start to finish?
I started writing on May 1, 2014 and finished the first draft after five weeks of solid writing (nearly day and night, the words were just rocketing out of my fingers). After the edits and proofreading, it published on May 2, 2015. One year and a day: I’m told that’s called a Witch’s Year although I don’t really know what that means.
Some people never quite get over the self-esteem issues that arise as a consequence of childhood abuse. Did you overcome those issues and, if so, what helped you rise above them?
Hmm, well, I’d like to say I have overcome all my self-esteem issues, but that would be a lie. One can’t overcome that which they deny exists. I don’t believe I saw the world through healthy eyes until I was nearly killed. In fighting back and surviving, I experienced an awakening where a lot of the old insecurities fell away like an outgrown shell. It was really quite something.
Writing a memoir can be an intimidating act. How have the people in your personal life reacted to the book?
Quite positively, actually. Everyone in my family who have read it, have responded favorably.
Many people use writing as a therapeutic device. Did writing The Olive Picker give you a sense of release, or closure?
I don’t believe in closure. Stuff happens, and there’s nothing you can do to ‘forget’ or ‘close the chapter,’ in my opinion. What has resulted from my writing The Olive Picker, has been a deeper understanding of what caused me to make the decisions I made throughout my life. The bigger picture of what it means to be truly loved by and bonded with another person, and how the lack of it stunts a child’s psyche, that vision is the gift I’ve received from writing the book.
Do you suffer any psychological backlash from the events depicted in your book? If so, what are they, and how do you manage them?
None, honestly. None at all.
Do you have any advice for others who may be trapped in abusive relationships?
Yes. But, precisely because those people are ‘trapped,’ my advice is most often directed at the friends of those in the abusive relationships. I tell them to identify the behavior. Call it out and talk to those affected. Peeling the curtain back and talking about it openly takes away a lot of its power. Encourage them to join a group, and attend with them if possible. We all need a tribe; and we need to be offered safe haven. Sometimes it may appear the person isn’t listening-but they are. The most important thing they need, is to know they have options.
What sparked your interest in writing?
I’ve always loved to write. I love how I can put words together to say succinctly the things I can’t speak.
Do you have plans for another book? If so, can you tell us about your next project?
I do believe I will write another book, and I have several snippets saved. However, I have no idea what direction I will go.
What would you say is the most fulfilling aspect of having written The Olive Picker? And, what advice can you offer writers who are on the fence about writing a memoir?
The most fulfilling aspect is the reaction of readers, both male and female. I never expected it would resonate with so many people. I have received loads of personal stories from readers, so I know they recognize the truth and honesty of what I wrote. That’s very satisfying.
I was on the fence about writing my story, frankly, I felt really presumptuous thinking anyone would want to read about me. I had good friends who asked me about what had happened, and it was their encouragement that made me believe it was a story worth telling.
The feeling that my story can help others-that’s gold.
Many thanks, Kathryn, for granting me this interview. I wish you the very best with your blockbuster book!